How Higher Education Will Be Reinvented in an Open World

 from the pedestrian to the provocative - an abbreviated tour of open higher ed circa May 2011 and a look ahead ...

Setting Context:  Opening Learning Resources:
  • 10 years ago in April 2001, MIT announced OpenCourseWare
  • April 2006, UC Berkeley announced its plan to put complete courses on Apple’s iTunes U,
    • Yale, Stanford, and even Harvard have joined in the last two years.
  • Stanford, opens The Stanford Mini Med School .
  •  Wikipedia, is gaining legitimacy in the education.
  • Khan Academy and TED Talks are among thousands of repositories of instructional modules
  • Entire universities are forming online - open to all at no charge
  • Other universities will assess, validate, and certify for college credit work completed by students
 -  How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education by Courtney Boyd Myers, the Next Web

 Setting Context:  the Open Convergence:
Means (Internet) 

The Internet - Nearly ubiquitous web and app based connectivity
    • Nearly two billion people regularly access the Internet - approaching 1/3 worldwide
    • For the first time we have a ubiquitous platform to offer open resources at no cost

Motive (Great Recession)

The Economy -
Great Recession has changed the norms worldwide
    • Income lower, unemployment higher, property values lower, energy/food prices higher
    • North America and Europe no longer can support the residential student norm
    • Commercial software and courseware costs become more significant with reduced budgets
    • While the recession may be spark, the motivation is broader and more noble - learning should be free!

Opportunity (Shrinking Tech/Access Costs)

The Shrinking Cost of Technology
Costs of computers and storage are rapidly shrinking

by Ray Schroeder. 2011

 Former WV Govenor Bob Wise calls it "education's GM moment."

 Setting Context:  the Emerging Open Culture:

by Creative Commons

Setting Context:  Disruptive Resources:

What started out as Sal Khan making a few algebra videos for his cousins has grown to over 2,100 videos and 100 self-paced exercises and assessments covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history. 


Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world

One thousand inspiring, stimulating, thought-provoking lectures - all open.

This one by Eric Whitacre is perhaps an appropriate allegory for open resources.


MOOC: Massively Open Online Course

The first MOOC?  Stephen Downes and George Siemens2008

Setting Context:  Avoiding The Vendor Price Escalator:

Learning management systems, web conferencing systems, office productivity suites, databases, and related software have had a history of escalating costs.  Many excellent - and compatible with the pricey alternatives - open source software solutions are available.  For stability in both costs and versions, many seek open source alternatives.  Some examples of my favorites:


Setting Context:  Avoiding The High Price of Text Books:
It is estimated that the average college student in America spends $900 a year on text books.  Twenty percnet of the cost of a community college associate's degree is estimated to go to text books.  Open text initiatives are picking up momentum.  Some examples of my favorites:

Mr Thiel believes that higher education fills all the criteria for a bubble: tuition costs are too high, debt loads are too onerous, and there is mounting evidence that the rewards are over-rated. Add to this the fact that politicians are doing everything they can to expand the supply of higher education (reasoning that the "jobs of the future" require college degrees), much as they did everything that they could to expand the supply of "affordable" housing, and it is hard to see how we can escape disaster.
  -Schumpeter, The Economist 4/13/11
A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. An even larger majority (75%) says college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. At the same time, however, an overwhelming majority of college graduates (86%) say that college has been a good investment for them personally.  - Pew Charitable Trust Report

Only 53 percent of graduates from the class of 2010 have full-time jobs

Setting Context:  Early Online Open University Initiatives

Peer2Peer University

Peer 2 Peer University is an open community that enables learning with and from each other.

All P2PU courses are free and based on materials and resources openly available on the web. Anyone can volunteer to run a course. You don't have to be an expert! At P2PU groups of peers come together to learn course materials collaboratively. Check our course list to see what's running!

We are curently in the process of building our new website. It's very much a beta site, and in no way 100% ready yet. But if you're interested in having a look, and possibly organising a test-course, come on over to

Take a course

Start Learning, view our Open Courses List.

Organize a course

Organize a new course or run an older one.

Suggest a course

Suggest and voteon future course ideas.

P2PU courses are free and open

Here's a selection of courses which are currently running. To see all courses visit our full courses list.

The next large cycle of courses will begin in April, however several new courses will open up much earlier, so check back regularly or join the P2PU announcement list.

                University of the People

Learn about which degrees are offered and apply to UoPeople

University of the People (UoPeople) is the world’s first tuition-free online university
dedicated to the global advancement and democratization of higher education.


The University embraces the worldwide presence of the Internet and dropping technology costs to bring tuition-free academic programs within reach to millions of people around the world.


With the support of academic leadership from top universities and a student body comprised of students from over 115 countries, UoPeople has become a tuition-free higher education global leader.



This institution's application for approval to operate has not yet been reviewed by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.


Saylor Foundation

arnessing technology to make education free

Home » Our Vision, Our Mission, Our Strategy

Our Vision, Our Mission, Our Strategy

The Saylor Foundation (under its legal name, The Constitution Foundation) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Foundation was established in 1999 by Michael J. Saylor, Chairman, CEO, and President of the business intelligence company Microstrategy. Mr. Saylor serves as the Foundation’s sole trustee.

While the Foundation supports a number of causes, its focus since 2008 has been its Free Education Initiative, through which we hope to “make education freely available to all.”

Our Vision

We believe that everyone, everywhere should have access to a college education. This website will serve as a zero-cost alternative to those that lack the resources to attend traditional brick-and-mortar institutions and, if they are willing, a complement to mainstream education providers. We expect free, asynchronous, web-based learning opportunities to motivate people to pursue personal growth and career ambitions as well as lead to institutional change amongst education providers everywhere.

We recognize that the rich experience of attending a traditional brick-and-mortar institution can never be fully replicated in a virtual setting. There are, for example, no online substitutes for the benefits of face-to-face interaction with peers in a classroom or during office hours with a professor. In recognizing these limitation, we offer our online programs as a cost-free alternative path for those who are unable to access a traditional education.

Our Mission

The mission of the Saylor Foundation is to make education freely available to all. Guided by the belief that technology has the potential to circumvent barriers that prevent many individuals from participating in traditional schooling models, the Foundation is committed to developing and advancing inventive and effective ways of harnessing technology in order to drive the cost of education down to zero.

Academic Earth is an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education.

As more and more high quality educational content becomes available online for free, we ask ourselves, what are the real barriers to achieving a world class education?  At Academic Earth, we are working to identify these barriers and find innovative ways to use technology to increase the ease of learning.

We are building a user-friendly educational ecosystem that will give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars.  Our goal is to bring the best content together in one place and create an environment in which that content is remarkably easy to use and where user contributions make existing content increasingly valuable.

We invite those who share our passion to explore our website, participate in our online community, and help us continue to find new ways to make learning easier for everyone.

Academic Earth is headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

Emerging:  Open Educational Resources University (OERu)

Open Educational Resources University - building the open future of higher education

The OER university is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit. 

The OER university aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognised education institutions. It is rooted in the community service and outreach mission to develop a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional delivery systems in post-secondary education. Through the community service mission of participating institutions we will open pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit. 


Will free/open universities and OERu burst the higher education bubble?

Will OERu become a "disruptive" approach, redefining the role of traditional universities from teaching to assessment?  If so, what impact will that have on faculty at traditional universities?
How do we best validate the learning that takes place from OER?   Written exams; oral exams; e-portfolios?
Who will create knowledge and how will we pay for it?
How can we be sure the open resources carry accurate, valid, up-to-date information?  Who validates the resources?
Do open educational resources mean only self-paced with little or no engagement by a professor?  How can we engage faculty members or mentors in this process?
How do open resources implement best practices and educational research?  Is new research needed?  Do new practices need to be developed?
If students learn at no-charge, at what cost do traditional universities provide   validation/certification?

In what fields or topics will traditional courses be required?  What characteristics define those fields or topics? 

Some Articles/Resources of Interest
Ten Open Educational Resources:
How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education by Courtney Boyd Myers, the Next Web
Teach Yourself With These 11 Free Online Education Sites by Kristy Korcz, Geek Sugar

7 Things You Should Know about Open Textbook Publishing

Peter Thiel: We're in a Bubble and It's Not the Internet.  It's Higher Education., Sarah Lacy, Tech Crunch
Is College a Rotten Investment?  Why Student Loans Are Not Like Subprime Mortgages - Annie Lowrey, Slate
Is College Worth It?  Pew Charitable Trust
Thiel Fellowship Pays 24 Talented Students $100,000 Not to Attend College - Ben Wieder, Chronicle of Higher Education
Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy, Godofsky, Zucker and Horn; John J. Heldrick Center, Rutgers University
Cable Green's Blog:  Open Educational Resources

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Contact information:

Ray Schroeder, director
Center for Online Learning, Research and Service
University of Illinois Springfield
One University Plaza
Springfield, IL 62703

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.